Functional foods include antioxidant nutrients which may protect against many human chronic diseases by combating reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the protective effect of pomegranate peel extract (PPE) on azoxymethane (AOM)-induced colon tumors in rats as an in vivo experimental model. Forty Sprague-Dawley rats (4 weeks old) were randomly divided into 4 groups containing 10 rats per group, and were treated with either AOM, PPE, or PPE plus AOM or injected with 0.9% physiological saline solution as a control. At 8 weeks of age, the rats in the AOM and PPE plus AOM groups were injected with 15 mg AOM/kg body weight, once a week for two weeks. After the last AOM injection, the rats were continuously fed ad-libitum their specific diets for another 6 weeks. At the end of the experiment (i.e. at the age of 4 months), all rats were killed and the colon tissues were examined microscopically for lesions suspected of being preneoplastic lesions or tumors as well as for biochemical measurement of oxidative stress indices. The results revealed a lower incidence of aberrant crypt foci in the PPE plus AOM administered group as compared to the AOM group. In addition, PPE blocked the AOM-induced impairment of biochemical indicators of oxidative stress in the examined colonic tissue homogenates. The results suggest that PPE can partially inhibit the development of colonic premalignant lesions in an AOM-induced colorectal carcinogenesis model, by abrogating oxidative stress and improving the redox status of colonic cells.
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